Drift Cars, a semi-realistic racing game, places a player into the position of driving a racecar on long, winding outdoor tracks in five daytime and nighttime natural environments, including dry-desert, forested-valley and snowcapped-mountain regions.
Unlike many similar games, the player is limited in regards to the number of upgrades they can perform on their vehicle. They initially receive a silver-gray hatchback with blue trim. They don't upgrade any parts on the car, such as the brakes, engine or tires. Instead, they use their race winnings in the form of drift coins to upgrade this base vehicle to one of eleven other better models that range in price from $3,000 (low-end, blue, sports car) to $23,000 (high-end, black-and-white, police cruiser).
The main goal of the game presented to the player seems fairly simple. They must successfully drive on a racetrack and perform drift maneuvers through curves. Yet, gameplay is incredibly challenging because the controls are extremely sensitive. The player must master using multiple controls to drift through the curves without crashing into side barriers and fences or turning around entirely.
Their vehicle's controls include an unseen steering wheel, standard brakes, a handbrake and nitro tanks. Some controls also perform two maneuvers. For example, the player might back up the vehicle uncontrollably when they brake. They might spin the vehicle around when entering a curve, which the game automatically translates as the vehicle driving out of control in the opposite direction. When this happens, it throws up a diamond-shaped, red "Wrong Way" warning sign on the screen, and the player must realign the vehicle.